December 18, 2009 |
Ben Roethlisberger's numbers are up across the board, and he's completing a career-best 68.3% of his passes . . . but the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost five in a row and essentially have bumbled their way out of playoff contention. Tom Brady directs the AFC's top-ranked offense, and he ranks near the top in most positive statistical categories . . . but the New England Patriots have lost three of their last five games. Eli Manning is on pace for his first 4,000-yard passing season, and is coming off a career-best 391-yard game . . . but the New York Giants have lost six of eight and no longer control their postseason destiny.
January 9, 2010 |
Nothing since the Chicago Bears' loss in Super Bowl XLI has been more wrong than the handling of the backfield, and it will be on display this afternoon in the NFL playoffs' wild-card round as the New York Jets ride a career-best season from Thomas Jones into Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium to face Cedric Benson and the Bengals. The pair who combined for 1,857 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bears in 2006 has flourished, and now the trade of Jones to the Jets in order to move up in the second round of the 2007 draft looks worse than the selection of Benson (fourth overall in 2005)
December 31, 2009 |
The No. 2 toothless Detroit Lions aren't in contention for very many honors these days, but they have achieved one distinction -- worst team of the decade. Averaging a bit more than four victories per season, the Lions have posted a mark of 42 wins and 117 losses dating back to 2000. Next crummiest are the Cleveland Browns at 56-103 and Oakland ("Commitment to Ridiculousness") Raiders at 62-97. The Lions also have a chance for another distinction -- worst team of the year. All they need is a loss to Chicago, combined with a victory by the No. 1 St. Louis Lambs over San Francisco, to win the Bottom Ten title.
January 21, 2010 |
Defensive end Jared Allen, the most menacing (and irreverent) member of Minnesota's defense, will do a little extra film study this week. Mapping a path to the quarterback? Breaking down the tendencies of an offensive tackle? Sure, he'll do some of that. But this is a different kind of film study. "I'm going to watch 'Road House,' " Allen said, referring to the 1989 action flick starring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer hired to tame an unruly bar. "He just goes in there and kicks the crap out of everybody.
November 25, 2009 |
The New England Patriots don't have the perfect defense, but in Week 12 they'll be defending perfect. They play at New Orleans on Monday, and the Saints are a club-record 10-0. New England is the only team to finish the regular season 16-0, so the Patriots have a chance to guarantee New Orleans won't threaten that record. ( Tom Brady & Co. tried and failed to dent Indianapolis' pristine record two games ago.) But it isn't about preserving history for the Patriots. They're singularly focused on the here and now, and that means tightening their grip on the AFC East.
January 22, 2010 |
If Peyton Manning ever compares his record four most-valuable-player awards, the honor this season might come out on top. He didn't throw for 49 touchdowns as he did in 2004, but if there was ever a season in which Manning best embodied the award, it was this one, when the Indianapolis Colts rebuilt their offense on the fly. Now they're one victory shy of a second trip to the Super Bowl with Manning, facing the upstart New York Jets in Sunday's AFC...
December 30, 2009 |
The New York Jets might have some thank-you notes to write -- especially if Cincinnati lies down Sunday the way Indianapolis did -- but don't expect their players to apologize if qualifying for the NFL postseason required only that they beat two squads of second-stringers. "I ain't apologizing for jack," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "I didn't apologize for losing three last-second games this year. I didn't make excuses for losing some of the tough games that we lost." Down deep, the Jets have to be surprised their playoff hopes still have a pulse.
January 28, 2010 |
What the Indianapolis Colts' offense needs to concentrate on to combat the New Orleans Saints' defense in Super Bowl XLIV. Beat the clock Peyton Manning is the best in the business when it comes to squeezing every last second out of the play clock to figure out what the defense is doing. The NFL is all about disguise, and the Saints defense will want to hide whether it's in man or zone coverage because Manning can exploit that. You frequently see Manning pointing across the line of scrimmage, often at a linebacker.
December 7, 2009 |
Peyton Manning can't remember the last time he won 21 consecutive times at anything. "Usually you don't play that many games in a row in youth basketball or whatnot," he said. "So that's a lot of wins." It's also the number of consecutive regular-season games Manning's Indianapolis Colts have won after equaling the NFL record Sunday with a 27-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Indianapolis (12-0), whose last regular-season loss came in October 2008 at Tennessee, can break the record by beating the Denver Broncos next weekend at home.